The effects of technology on the general geography of life is something that has taken a dramatic turn in recent years. As we shift in the direction of GPS devices and online map services we have begun to replace our more primal sense of direction, not to mention the old institution of "landmarks." MapQuest itself has become such a permanent station online that it is the brand name that people unwittingly call almost any locating service on the internet. It serves to reason that MapQuest would extend its brand image permanently and bring it directly to our touch screens.
MapQuest is known for allowing you to find almost anything by providing only menial information. On top of this is will force even more icons down your throat by allowing you to find general items in a given area, such as gas, food, or hotels. This has all been proven effective through its service online, but the iPhone itself already has a complete Maps feature that utilizes GPS to find your way around. Now that the iPhone 3Gs has been released we even have direction indicators with the Compass function. To make MapQuest worthwhile in any practical way it has to both meet and exceed what the iPhone has already built in. Luckily the MapQuest 4Mobile free iPhone application does this in a moderate way.
Similar to the iPhone Maps feature, the MapQuest application will start you off at your given location by giving you a small person shape standing on a map representation of your neighborhood. From here you have a few options to find an end point for travel. If you hit the small "+" button you will be taken to a series of graphic coded buttons to find different things. Here you can select some of these and place them into a medium task bar that sits right below the viewable map for quick reference. These range in usefulness as there are ones to find airport, hospitals, and dining locations. At the same time their are also branded locations such as the Best Wester and Hamptons Inn, which for many is just another annoying way that corporate advertising finds its way onto your cell phone.
If you go to the next tab over you can use the Directions feature that has made MapQuest the fan favorite on its website. Just as before you enter the Start and End addresses or information to get clear directions between the two points. the MapQuest application does thankfully allow you to simply use Current Location for your starting point, but it does often have trouble finding locations when using proper locations. It should be simple enough to use the name of a university or specific government building, but often times you have to enter in the city and state as well. Likewise, when you are given a list of possible locations for your information they are often unspecific and you are not offered with a back button to return to the previous screen.
The My Places tab can be a nice feature, but only if you already have an account with MapQuest, AIM, or AOL. It is not that this is not a useful function, especially if you use one of these three services consistently, but it is much easier to simply include address information into your Contacts so that you can find them easily using the regular iPhone Maps feature. This is going to keep these "favorite" locations internal to your iPhone and not force you to use more outside services.
There are some Settings you can alter for the MapQuest application, such as how they will filter directions and what units of measurement should be used, but they are not that elaborate. Over all the MapQuest free iPhone application brings a level of depth to map direction, but nothing dramatically new or useful in terms of additional features. It will remain useful for finding your general location and receiving pin drops for certain services, but for many directional searches and favorite locations you may want to just stick with what Apple has already given you. Either way a free iPhone application like this is not something that should be avoided.
Three out of five stars: – good – worth checking out. Get it here